Lotus Campaign experiencing double the requests to house homeless during COVID-19

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Coronavirus is hitting the homeless population hard, making non-profits that work to house the homeless busier than ever.

Since 2018, Lotus Campaign in Charlotte has worked with the private, for-profit real estate community, offering landlords incentives to lease to the homeless.

Their work has changed a lot in the past few months due to covid-19.

On average the Lotus Campaign finds housing for about 5 to 12 people per month, but right now they’re averaging more than 20 people.

“We have far more demand than there are units to put them in right now,” co-founder Philip Payne said.

He said the virus is changing the face of homelessness.

“People who you never expected to be in this situation are finding themselves in either very imminent danger or out on the streets,” he said.

They are searching for more landlords to join the program.

“When you consider the landlord ends up with a client who has guaranteed social service support, who has a guarantee against loss of rent, who has a guarantee against unpaid damages it’s a pretty good deal especially in this market,” he said.

The group has housed about 250 people, working with organizations like RunningWorks to identify those in need.

On Friday both groups helped Stephen Page move into a new apartment after he says homeless shelters turned him away.

“We tried six of them but because I’m in a wheelchair it makes it difficult for them to accept me because most of the places are overcrowded and have to put everyone on the floor on a mat,” Page said.

Payne says they are searching for even more landlords who will give people like Page a chance.

“This is the first bed that I’ve slept in that I can actually sleep,” Page said.

Some of the effects of covid-19 have yet to hit. Right now state leaders are asking landlords to work with tenants who cannot pay rent, but the evictions are not going away, they are just delayed. This is why Payne created an eviction mitigation program for when courts re-open and start processing evictions.

“As soon as its clear that the family is going to be out and working to put them into the program and keep them in housing so they don’t have to go through the trauma period of being out without a home,” he said.

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